The Suffer Machine on the Stanley Headwall is one of those impressive lines of ice that seldom gets done because there is no easy way to begin the first pitch. It’s either M7 rock up the old bolt line, or Teddy Bear’s Picnic, the direct M8 WI6 mixed line up the rotten rock underneath the dagger of ice that hangs down over the cliff. Tantalizing as it is, few parties venture onto the Suffer Machine compared to Nemesis, the superb ice route 200 meters to the left. Tato Esquirol and I decided to make a final trip to the Stanley Headwall this past March 10th to see what condition the Machine was in.
Fortunately, the weather had cooled off somewhat and the warming spring trend had receded a bit. We found good conditions on the approach as well as the climb. We didn’t take skis or snowshoes and just hiked up the valley on the packed ski/snowshoe trail.
The direct approach from the valley bottom up the potential avalanche slope to the cave at the base of the route seemed a bit foolish for a father of two small children. Yet, when we got there, we took this direct line as there was a broken trail covered only by the most recent snow fall. I think we were lulled into taking it by laziness. The longer route around to Nemesis and back along the cliff band appeared to involve quite a bit more work!
While the ice was dry and somewhat brittle, it wasn’t too cold to make the mixed climbing on Teddy Bear’s unbearable. I guess one never knows about the hanging dagger’s fickle tendencies. All I can say is that, fortunately for us, the icicle didn’t break off the day we needed it.
The three remaining ice pitches above were colder and slower than we expected. Our experience with the ice that afternoon was quite a bit different from even a day earlier when Tato climbed Nemesis for the second time this winter. The Suffer Machine was brittle and our tool placements were not easy.
Tato and Genciana leave for Barcelona this evening from Calgary! It was a pleasure getting to know these two fine people this winter. These three outstanding mixed routes we did together were the highlights of my winter.